Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Wednesday Comics: Why AMC's Preacher TV Show is a Stupid Idea
As a comic book fan, I am usually up to date on the latest TV and movie adaptation of comic book properties.
News has gotten around that AMC has greenlit a pilot adaptation of the critically acclaimed comic book series Preacher. AMC has found unbelievable success with another dark comic series turned TV show The Walking Dead. The network is obviously looking for their next big hit. And Preacher, like The Walking Dead, is violent, has a devoted fan base, and is has been given incredibly high accolades from people inside and outside of the comic book industry. I'm assuming that this is why AMC has chosen Preacher.
This is also a monumentally stupid idea.
And by a stupid idea, I do not mean that I personally do not like it or find it offensive. I am saying that the idea is an unwise move for AMC
Below are the following reasons why.
1. Blasphemy Chic.
The plot of Preacher is that a man who is contaminated by a half demon/half angel called Genesis decides to go on a quest to kill God, who is an absentee tyrant. Throughout the series, the story takes shots at God, Jesus, religion and the like with a darkly humourous hipster vulgarity.
If you think religion and religious people are weird and cultish, then this story would be viewed as a cool way to knock them. I think that this idea is prevelent in much of the entertainment industry. This is evidenced by much of the way faith and Christianity are presented in much of the pop culture. (e.g. last year's ABC comedy "Good Christian B**ches.")
But this is the attitude of the minority. The majority of people do not thin that is cool to point at the pious and laugh. This may appeal to a small subset of the culture (like HBO's Girls), but it is not an idea that has big ratings appeal.
You can say that meth cookers and zombies are also out of the mainstream. But those were just mediums and methods to tell universally human stories. Disdain for God is not universally human, nor is it enormously popular.
2. Moral Hits.
Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead are AMC's biggest hits. They are dark and they are violent. But ultimately, both shows are about morality.
Breaking Bad shows that making bad moral choices leads to bad things and corruption of character. The Walking Dead asks the question about how to keep you soul, your humanity in a world gone wild.
And while they do explore the darker side of moral questions, there is little doubt that there is a right and wrong. We get angry at Walter White or Rick Grimes when they stray from doing what they know is morally right.
Jesse Custer, the main character of Preacher, also has a sense of morality. But it is so devoid of a traditional moral sense that I believe it will repel most viewers.
Garth Ennis, Preacher's creator, is an atheist who said that he wasn't worried about the blasphemous tone of his work. He said that if there is a God, Ennis was sure He has a sense of humor.
This is telling in terms of how Preacher approaches the topic of God: a joke. Even the horrifically heretical hit The DaVinci Code wrapped their sacrilege in a tight, taught thriller. Preacher's tone is adolescent thumbing at the faith of mom and dad.
And you need more than shock and snark to pull in audiences week to week. Game of Thrones satirizes religion often with vulgarity and pornography. But Game of Thrones does have compelling characters with understandable goals. (I am not excusing the bad morals of the show, but simply explaining why people keep coming back to it). Game of Thrones also has the advantage of taking place in another world that has a completely alien religion. Preacher directly mocks the faith and the love people have for their Lord and Savior.
The Walking Dead comic book has tackled religion. So has the show. But even when it is portrayed negatively, it is not done with the dismissive disdain of Preacher.
Let's look at history.
The last major TV show or movie with a similar premise was The Golden Compass, a children's story about a young girl on a quest to kill God. The movie made less than half of its $180 million dollar budget back.
The only major adaptation of any of Ennis' work is Thomas Jane's ill-fated Punisher movie.
Finally, the pilot is being written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. These guys are steeped in shock humor, so it is not surprising that they have been tapped to do this. But they don't have much to suggest that they have what it takes to translate the foul nature of Preacher into something that people will be compelled to watch week after week.
I am sure that there will be outrage and people calling for boycotts of AMC. I don't know if this would be a good or bad idea. It will generate publicity for the show. But there is very little AMC could do to defend the content.
Unlike HBO, AMC needs sponsors. And I'm not sure sponsors would be willing to jump onto a show that is built around a hero on a quest to kill God, who for many millions is the most important person in our lives.
Those are my thoughts. I could be wrong.
What do you think?